5:30 pm EST, February 22, 2017

Jed Whedon talks rocking the world and changing the game on ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. showrunner Jed Whedon discusses those killer twists and writing fanfiction in the aftermath of the spring finale.

Jed Whedon wrote and directed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15, the episode that brought the current LMD storyline to an ostensible close. “Self Control” also completely changed the game for the rest of the season, sending Daisy into the ‘upside down’ of the world of the Framework to rescue the rest of the team.

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But the Framework is a world where resolved regrets have appalling consequences — and that world is run by the likes of Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. Whedon offered up his thoughts on upcoming themes, that crazy return, and the life and death stakes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Hydra.

First, what’s it like being an evil genius, destroyer of fandoms?

Oh well, you know! I get a lot of love-hate tweets at me.

When did you first have the idea to go into this alternate timeline, and basically write fanfiction of your own story?

You know, we end every year with talking about what next year will be. So last year, we had a lot of different things on our plate that we wanted to get into the season, and I think you can see we packed a lot in. But there’s sort of three big ideas — Ghost Rider, LMDs, and some sort of alt-world where we could, as you say, write some fanfiction for our characters and explore new things.

You know, I think this is our eighty-first episode that just aired, and that’s a lot of stories. So it’s refreshing for everybody, in production, action, and writers, to flip the script for a little while and get to sort of shake it out and use a new muscle.

So that’s something we talked about doing, and then figuring out how to do it, and how to make all those stories sort of become one thing was the real puzzle. And that’s where the Darkhold came in, and the idea that, finding a way that the Darkhold could sort of get us new tech, and the tech could get us to Alt-World. And so it was sort of a year in the making, and then it’s just a question of, what do we want to do in there? What kind of fun do we want to have?

Speaking of that, can you clarify the parameters of the Framework? Is it really an ideal world, as Aida and Radcliffe seem to think?

Yeah, I think that Radcliffe and Aida set out to duplicate the world, and with some of the info that Aida got from the Darkhold, they were able to do that. Now, the one change that they made was they plugged I think five people into it and repaired one regret for each of them, and that seems to have had a little bit of a ripple effect. We’ll get to learn more about the nature of that reality, but they were setting out to make our world. And it just seems when you change something, there’s a little bit of a butterfly effect.

So putting Jemma aside, who is decidedly her own case as she is apparently dead, which character’s new life do you think will be most surprising to fans?

Well, that’s a little bit of a wait and see question. But one thing I can say is that the themes we’re exploring are sort of, are you different if you’re in a different situation? Or are you inherently the same person? Obviously, we see May standing without much fear in a Hydra building, seemingly like she’s on top of the world. And so the question is, is she still her? Or have her new experiences changed her enough to be someone else?

Those are some of the themes that we’re going to explore. And you’ll get to see how each person is different and sort of judge for yourself who is the most different. But those are some of the themes we wanted to dig into. Is there a true you, or are you made up of your regrets — and what happens if you take those away?

And in terms of Jemma, you were very careful to obscure the date of her death on the tombstone. Is there any significance to that, or a mystery we should be keeping an eye out for?

In general in the Marvel Universe, dates are avoided. Because so much is connected… and I think that if you really asked, they would say that since the first Iron Man movie, like, two months has passed, or something insane! [laughs] You know, I think that we try to avoid them in general, but also it’s just so that you don’t know what’s happening, and we don’t have to answer all those questions, or stick super strictly to the exact timeline of when things would have occurred, so that we can have a little more wiggle room in terms of what stories we tell.

But yeah, we don’t know if it happened 20 years ago, or recently. We don’t know because we put a little flower over that!

But there’s a chance that we’ll see Jemma again?

There is a chance! And I’ll just say that we love Elizabeth [Henstridge] too much to have her go out off camera.

Okay, cool! So in terms of Ward, you definitely know how to keep the fandom churning! Is there a possibility that he will show up beyond the alternate universe, or is his role strictly in imaginary land?

Well, we’ll have to wait and see. But right now, there’s only five people in the Framework who actually have bodies in our world. [Ward] is a simulation, but he’s a simulation of exactly who he was. As Yo-Yo says, how do you populate a whole world? And Daisy very conveniently answers, “With the Darkhold.” It’s sort of our catch-all/fix-all solve this year, the Darkhold. It gave them this ability to sort of duplicate our world, so he is Grant Ward as we knew him.

Now, the world is different around him, and so whether or not he reacted the same to the changes in the world, we’ll see. But Grant Ward never enters the picture and makes things run smoother!

That’s for sure. So if you were to boil down what we can expect from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Hydra, what would you say?

Nightmares and dreams coming true.

…Oh boy.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×16, “What If…” will air on Tuesday, April 4 at 10:00 p.m. on ABC.

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